THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ADVERTISING ON COLLEGE STUDENTS' BEHAVIORS: USING FAMILY COMMUNICATION AS A PROTECTIVE FACTOR AGAINST HEAVY DRINKING AND RISKY SEXUAL BEHAVIORS
Radanielina-Hita, Marie Louise
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An online survey of undergraduates explored the effects of recalled parent-child interaction regarding media on their critical thinking skills, beliefs about alcohol and sex and current reports of risky behaviors. Students completed the questionnaire three times during fall 2011. The SEM analyses were based on 676 students. The longitudinal data set was used to model a latent trajectory of drinking and risky behaviors. Students whose parents critiqued media content reported a higher level of critical thinking toward media sources and media content. More critical thinking toward media sources decreased the effects of advertising on alcohol-related expectancies. More critical thinking toward media content decreased the effects of advertising on sex-related expectancies, alcohol-related behaviors and risky sexual behaviors. Parents' mediation served as protective factor against the effects of advertising on drinking via their effects on critical thinking toward media sources and alcohol-related expectancies. Negative mediation decreased risky sexual behaviors via its prior effects on critical thinking toward media content and sex-related expectancies. On the other hand, students whose parents endorsed media portrayal reported lower levels of critical thinking. Positive mediation predicted more risky sexual behaviors. Therefore, critical thinking toward media directly and consistently affected risky behaviors. Alcohol-related expectancies were related to sex-related expectancies. At time 1, more drinking predicted more risky sexual behaviors. However, the relationship did not stand the test of time. The analyses also revealed a linear decrease of drinking from time 1 to time 3. Developing critical thinking toward media is an effective approach to helping young people make good decision about their health. Although students' understanding of advertising intent may be biased by the emotional aspect of decision making, critical thinking decreased the appeal of advertising on risky behaviors. Parents play an important role in developing their children's critical thinking skills. As the positive effect of parent-child communication influenced current behaviors, prevention programs targeting college students may still benefit from an inclusion of family communication practices. Although preliminary, the non-significant association between alcohol-related behaviors and risky sexual behaviors across time buttressed previous research, which established a more correlational nature rather than directional relationship.
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